The 10 Best New Restaurants in Los Angeles 2015

Decor at Hatchet HallEXPAND
Decor at Hatchet Hall
Anne Fishbein

5. Hatchet Hall
What people outside of the South rarely understand is that the best Southern cooking these days is thoroughly modern and ingredient-driven. If there’s any chef in L.A. who knows how to translate that aesthetic outside of its home region, it’s Hatchet Hall’s Brian Dunsmoor. Dunsmoor and his business partners have converted the former Waterloo and City into an incredibly appealing series of dining rooms and bars, with a patio that looks like a garden party that’s spilled out of the restaurant. The menu is long and wide-ranging, and sometimes the Southern-ness of the place is unmistakable: a plate of sliced fresh tomatoes served with pigeon peas, aged cheddar and fresh herbs, or a skillet-fried quail served with peaches, honey, black pepper and bursts of fresh basil. Other dishes are slightly more subtle in their Southern-ness. Hunks of yellowtail are sandwiched with thin-sliced habanero and juicy peach, all wrapped up in a sliver of translucent fat shaved from a Johnson Mangalitsa country ham. Okra comes with Calabrian chile and pickled garlic (and not a hint of sliminess), and wood-grilled octopus is kissed with lemon aioli and salsa verde. This is a long, diverse, ambitious menu, and it is being executed incredibly well. 12517 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 391-4222, hatchethallla.com.

Meatballs at Jon & Vinny's
Meatballs at Jon & Vinny's
Anne Fishbein

4. Jon & Vinny’s
So much of pop culture is the filtering of nostalgia through a current sensibility, and no L.A. restaurant in 2015 epitomizes the fun of food and nostalgia and pop culture better than Jon & Vinny’s. At their Italian-American joint across the street from their flagship of awesomeness, Animal, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have declared their intention to create a restaurant like the ones in which they grew up eating. It’s a place where you can bring the kids and where you might also spot Kanye West and entourage, dining on pizza and pasta and soft-serve ice cream. And, man, what great pizza it is. The L.A. Woman is an instant classic; its crust is firm enough that its burrata topping doesn't collapse your slice, which can be delivered to your mouth with grace and ease. For the most part, the chefs shy away from the kind of creativity you find across the street. Instead, you get meatballs that are an absolute paragon of the form, a blend of short rib and pork shoulder that's mild and tangy in all the right ways, served with deep-red marinara. There are touches of L.A. modernism as well, in the marinated Calabrian tuna bruschetta with crunchy mirepoix, in the farmers market–driven salads and in a few of the non-meaty pastas, which are downright restrained. The thing that shines through is the chefs' sense of joy, which makes Jon & Vinny’s irresistible. 412 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; (323) 334-3369, jonandvinnys.com.

Bibim salad at Baroo
Bibim salad at Baroo
Anne Fishbein

3. Baroo
Baroo is that most wonderful of restaurants, a place that is almost impossible to describe in part because no one would believe it to be true — a modernist, health-focused Korean fantasy inside a sparse room located on a decidedly unglamorous stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard just east of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. There's no sign, and the room is tiny and simple: white walls, a communal table, a counter from which you order, a few stools along another counter against the wall, a blackboard menu and some shelving in back holding jars of things in various stages of fermentation. Owner Kwang Uh, a South Korean native, has had a fascinating career trajectory, filled with stints at impressive restaurants such as Daniel and Nobu. More recently, he's staged at Noma and other world-famous restaurants in Europe, and you can see the extreme fine-dining training and deep philosophy in Kwang’s cooking. Handmade pasta ribbons support a kaleidoscope of celery and celeriac: thinly pureed celeriac, pickled julienned celery, crispy chips made from celeriac and a dusky powder they call "celery ash." The dish takes one flavor profile and layers it over itself with multiple variations in texture and technique. The result is lightly fruity and creamy and utterly beguiling. There are a lot of grains being put to use, including a few dishes with Job's tears, which you may have seen sold as Chinese pearl barley. They're best here in the dish called noorook, which also has farro and kamut, and is mixed with roasted koji beet cream, concentrated kombu dashi, seeds, nuts, finger lime and rose onion pickle. Baroo is a weird, exceptionally personal, only-in-L.A. kind of treat. Is there any better kind? 5706 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 819-4344, baroola.strikingly.com

Quesadilla at Broken Spanish
Quesadilla at Broken Spanish
Anne Fishbein

2. Broken Spanish
Chef Ray Garcia always seemed destined for more than the casual, upscale hotel cooking he’s been practicing for the last few years at Fig in Santa Monica. And who better to notice and recruit such a talent than Bill Chait, former head of Sprout Restaurants, the group that seems to own about three-fourths of L.A.'s hottest restaurants? My guess is that Chait met with Garcia and asked him what he really wanted to be cooking. And Garcia said, "Modern Mexican food.” At Broken Spanish, which takes over the former Rivera space, that’s just what Garcia is doing: upscale, modern Mexican that goes great with cocktails and showcases this chef’s considerable talent. It was a whole fish that won me over completely on an early visit: a red snapper served over "green clamato" (a jaunty green sauce with citrus tang and a whisper of the ocean) and accompanied by clams, avocado and soft leeks left in chunks large enough to showcase their sweet, vegetal flavor. Garcia is playing with the kind of inventiveness that feels natural, and he puts deliciousness first. This menu has a lot of comfort food that's exciting as well as soothing. You can have tamales stuffed with lamb neck or with a delightful mix of favas, peas and Swiss chard. There are touches of true modernism, too, such as a beautiful jumble of snap peas, sea beans, black sesame and creamy requesón cheese. It’s heartening to see Mexican food take the forefront in the upscale dining conversation, and also heartening to see Garcia take his rightful position as the guy to lead that conversation. 1050 S. Flower St., downtown; (213) 749-1460, brokenspanish.com.

Seafood platter at Cassia
Seafood platter at Cassia
Anne Fishbein

1. Cassia
I wasn’t expecting Cassia to be the best new restaurant of 2015 when I walked into the soaring art deco space next to the Santa Monica Public Library. In fact, I wasn’t really even thinking of it that way by the time I left on my first visit. Cassia is a spot that creeps up on you slowly — the space is so big and flashy, its feel so of-the-moment, it would be easy to down a few well-made cocktails and order a couple of dishes from the long, slightly overwhelming menu and think, “Nice place, good flavors” — yet never notice that this isn’t just another delightful but familiar Asian-ish hot spot. But on second and third visit, the exceptional quality of chef Bryant Ng’s cooking started to dawn on me. Every single dish that hit the table elicited a reaction of “Damn, this is good!” Cassia is the project of Ng (formerly of the much-missed Spice Table), his wife, Kim Ng, and husband-and-wife duo Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb of Rustic Canyon/Huckleberry fame. Ng has brought some of the sensibility that made Spice Table such a favorite, but the context is slightly different: Here, he’s riffing on the interplay between French and Vietnamese cuisines, both the influences that are born of the historical French occupation of Vietnam and crossovers born of Ng’s imagination. And so, you can order a chilled seafood platter in various sizes, but rather than the tower of chilled crustacean bits that’s customary, you get a sampling of Ng’s cooked and raw cold seafood creations: a bowl of large prawns bathed in an aromatic Vietnamese hot sauce; smoked salmon dip topped with fresh salmon roe and served with grilled country bread; hunks of raw scallop in chile oil with tiny bits of ham and corn and gobs of fresh herbs. Other French/Vietnamese mashups here, such as the pho-influenced pot-au-feu, are striking in their cleverness but also in just how well they sum up the aim of this restaurant: an elegant ode to what both Europe and Asia have taught us about deliciousness. 1314 Seventh St., Santa Monica; (310) 393-6699, cassiala.com.


Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Cassia

1314 Seventh St.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

310-393-6699

cassiala.com

miles
Broken Spanish

1050 S. Flower St.
downtown, CA 90015

213-749-1460

www.brokenspanish.com

miles
Baroo

5706 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, California 90038

323-929-9288

baroola.strikingly.com

miles
Jon & Vinny's

412 N. Fairfax Ave.
Fairfax, California 90036

323-334-3369

jonandvinnys.com

miles
Hatchet Hall

12517 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, California 90066

310-391-4222

hatchethallla.com

miles
RiceBar

419 W. Seventh St.
Los Angeles, California 90014

213-807-5341

ricebarla.com

miles
Rocio's Mexican Kitchen

7891 Garfield Ave.
Bell Gardens, California 90201

562-659-7800


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